South Jersey Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Disorderly conduct is a broad, catch-all offense that police and prosecutors use for a wide variety of conducts. Many times, disorderly conduct is something that is charged when a few bad decisions lead to something police cannot just look the other way on.
Despite its low-level classification, a disorderly conduct charge can still result in jail time, fines, court costs, can take time to resolve, and will go on your record. To properly address a disorderly conduct charge, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney on your side. For those in South Jersey, the Law Offices of John Zarych have over thirty years of experience in criminal defense. To consult with them about your disorderly conduct case, call (609) 616-4956.
Conduct That is Considered “Disorderly” in New Jersey
New Jersey’s disorderly conduct statute can be found in N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-2. The statute’s subsection “a.” contains two ways to be charged with disorderly conduct:
- Engaging in fighting, threatening, or any other “violent or tumultuous behavior”
- Creating a “hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor”
The first part is straightforward enough: if you try to start a fight, or you are generally acting violent and aggressive, you can be arrested and charged with disorderly contact. This might include things like getting pushy in a crowd, getting in someone’s face, or actually starting a fight.
The second section is much more broad, and does not really give any guidance as to what conduct it covers. The language for this comes from the Model Penal Code, a suggested criminal code written by the American Law Institute in 1961. Because of this, many states share similar language in their disorderly conduct statute.
This part of the offense is usually used to cover any conduct that is a big enough public disturbance to merit some legal action. Acting wild, yelling and screaming, swinging dangerous objects, lighting fireworks in a crowd, or otherwise disturbing those around you can all be sufficient for a disorderly conduct charge.
Subsection “b.” of the statute includes a third way to be charged with disorderly conduct: using offensive language. More particularly, it has to be done in a public place in a way that can “offend the sensibilities of a hearer,” is “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse,” or uses “abusive language” in order to constitute an offense. That means that merely using swear words with a friend while in public should not be an offense. Instead, this is intended to cover things like cursing-out a worker at a store, yelling at someone else on the street, or continually swearing at a police officer.
Since the offense covers using language in public, there must be a line drawn between when language constitutes disorderly conduct, as opposed to free speech. If you were arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting or otherwise exercising your First Amendment rights, contact an attorney immediately.
How is Disorderly Conduct Punished?
Disorderly conduct is classified, right in the statute, as a “petty disorderly persons offense.” A “disorderly persons offense” is the lower level of illegal conduct in New Jersey law. As opposed to “crimes” and “offenses,” disorderly persons offenses are punished by fines and small amounts of jail time. For any disorderly persons offense, you face a potential of up to six months in jail.
The difference between a “petty disorderly persons offense,” like disorderly conduct, and a regular “disorderly persons offense” is the potential fine. A petty disorderly persons offense has a potential fine of up to $500, and a regular disorderly persons offense has fines up to $1,000.
Since disorderly conduct is a petty disorderly persons offense, you can face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine upon conviction, plus other costs and fines. That a serious penalty, especially for a law that is written so broadly and vaguely.
Representation May Help Avoid Penalties
Conviction for a disorderly conduct charge will mean facing the potential jail time, paying high fines, and having a record of criminal conduct. That will follow you until it is expunged later, if you are eligible for expungement. Hiring an attorney to handle your case may give you options you otherwise would not know you had.
For instance, judges, police, and prosecutors are often willing to negotiate charges. If your only charge is disorderly conduct, the actual activity you were involved in may not be too serious. Judges may be willing to accept a plea to a local ordinance violation, or accept community service, anger management, etc. in exchange for dropping a charge. This is up to the police, prosecutor, and especially the judge in your locality.
Speak to a South Jersey Disorderly Conduct Attorney
The Law Offices of John Zarych has criminal defense attorneys that are experienced in courts all over South Jersey. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, and you want to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options, call (609) 616-4956.